HARARE - President Robert Mugabe, a serial traveller now dubbed “Visiting Leader” by some of his political detractors, is expected to embark on another long overseas sojourn this week — this time to the United States for a summit on Ebola — as the nonagenarian continues to break national flying records in terms of total mileage travelled.
Observers pointed out last night that by the time Mugabe returns from New York, he would have completed more than 22 trips abroad since the beginning of the year, having travelled more than 220 000 kilometres during this short period — far more than many other leaders will manage throughout their tenures in power.
His political detractors also say that the nonagenarian’s “useless” travels are needlessly gobbling up millions of dollars per trip, at a time that government coffers are dry due to his administration’s gross mismanagement of the economy and the corruption of his lieutenants.
It has been said that each time Mugabe travels, such a single trip blows up more than $2 million, through the “hiring” of an Air Zimbabwe plane, as well as “allowances” for him and the large entourages that accompany him.
Because of the pending New York trip, a destination that is in the belly of some of Mugabe’s fiercest critics on account of Zimbabwe’s poor human rights record, the USA, this week’s Cabinet meeting has been pushed to today instead of the usual Tuesday.
Unfazed by growing criticism by Zimbabweans about his costly travels, the president will be leaving for New York — after spending less than 48 hours in the country — having returned from South Africa at the weekend where he attended a summit on the Lesotho crisis.
Mugabe’s trip to South Africa last week meant that he has now been to Pretoria four times over the past six months alone.
Government officials refused to confirm to the Daily News when and whether Mugabe was travelling to the US, with presidential spokesperson George Charamba claiming that he had not heard anything about his boss’s scheduled trip.
“I didn’t hear that. Go back to the person who told you,” Charamba said curtly.
Since the beginning of the year, Mugabe who is also the ceremonial chairperson of both Sadc and the African Union (AU), has spent more time in the air or in foreign lands than he has done in his own country, which is faced with mounting political and economic problems.
Mugabe’s frequent jaunts, whose benefits are still to be seen, have gobbled up millions of dollars, with the United States Department of State recently recommending that Mugabe’s budget be made public in the department’s recent fiscal transparency report.